It’s been a while since we’ve had a guest contributor write a piece for Barrett Sports Media. It’s why I reached out recently to Sandy Cohen. Sandy is the VP and Director of Sales for Union Broadcasting, an independent group that owns sports talk stations in Kansas City, Louisville, and Wichita.
Sandy is one of the many independent station operators whose success can be overlooked by national advertisers. Without multiple stations in a single market to offer them, agencies have a tendency to bypass the opportunity to work with stations like Sandy’s, even if those brands may be able to produce results for their clients.
Despite a heavy work schedule, Sandy made time to write this open letter to those agencies. Hopefully, this shines a light on the benefits of working with local broadcasters, the impact they can make in their markets, and how they can be of service to any advertiser aiming to grow their business.
Dear Advertising Agency,
Thank you for the opportunity to take a shot at earning your business. I appreciate the request for a proposal you sent to me. When I receive your RFP, my team and I are well-trained to build a marketing solution that will help you perform at the highest level on our radio stations and digital platform.
Each member of the sales team averages nearly 15 years working at our locally-owned company and we know what will benefit you and your client best while paying attention to your goals. We are one of a handful of local operators around the country. The opportunity to present to you on behalf of your client is a privilege and means a lot to me and my business partners. We have poured countless hours and money into our operation so we can compete with the large groups and earn your advertising partnerships. We approach our work differently because we are the decision-makers. We work quickly and effectively and do it with one goal in mind, to make it work for your client, for the long haul. We want you and your client to be a partner for many years to come, not four weeks in 4th quarter.
So with this in mind, have you ever considered utilizing our locally owned sports radio stations and our digital platform differently than the traditional radio stations you are buying in the market? Your requests are cost per point or cost per thousand driven and do not typically offer us the opportunity to put our product and talent to work for your greatest benefit. Why not consider engaging with one of our personalities or one of their segment guests for an endorsement campaign or endorsement as part of your overall campaign?
Rarely does a personality have a better connection and ability to influence their audience, than one tied to sports radio. Consider these potential benefits we have for you and your client. In Kansas City for example, I have six local show hosts in primetime and evenings combined and each has many seasonal and regular segment guests that make their shows entertaining. These segment guests are professional football, baseball, basketball and soccer players, coaches and analysts. Our primetime show hosts are on radio four hours a day, five days a week minimum. Throughout the week, they host additional specialty radio shows, TV shows, are TV color commentators and analysts for some of our local teams, regularly podcast and use social media on all available platforms. They are heavily involved in our community, tied to charities, emcee many community events and speak to many different special interest groups. Each member of our Kansas City on-air team averages 16 years on my station. In Louisville, our hosts average nearly 10 years on the station, which is close to our inception in that market. The equity they have built with our audience is huge. Many leading sports radio stations around the country are no different than me and my team.
Consider Nate Bukaty and Steven St John, our morning show hosts in Kansas City. Nate has been with us since 2004, Steven since 1998. Kansas City afternoon host, Soren Petro is so knowledgeable and knows so much about sports. A well-respected journalist locally and nationally as he contributes to sports radio shows around the country as a segment guest year-round. All three are Kansas City natives, and currently have long-standing endorsement partnerships with car dealers, mortgage companies, window and garage coating companies, health clubs, jewelry stores, med spas, outdoor decking companies, home automation services, patio furniture stores and more. We have success story after success story where each of these sponsors can attribute sales to Sports Radio 810 and our hosts and the personality who is standing behind them.
The same holds true for all our Kansas City hosts, Bob Valvano and Drew Deener in Louisville and Shane Dennis in Wichita. Each are professional in their approach to entertain and understand that we need to perform for our sponsor partners to keep the machine running. A few success stories:
Steven St John has quite a personality and it sells product. Pajamagram has been a regular partner around the holidays several times throughout the year, partnering with Steven to sell the world’s softest pajamas. They track results and we consistently earn the highest sales result as compared to stations and personalities around the country.
Nate Bukaty has done a fabulous job positioning a local jewelry store, Joslin’s Jewelry as the place in Kansas City to shop for engagement rings and all jewelry including repairs at a fair price. They have been a partner of ours since inception in 1998.
Soren Petro has been Robert Brogden Buick GMC’s spokesperson since 2004. He tallies a running total of vehicles he and his co-host, producer and segment guests have purchased. Over 20 and counting in the last three years. All our station partners benefit from being members of this exclusive club. We make it a point to set up entertainment events where business owners can network together and oftentimes they want to support each other.
Now consider the passionate fan base that follows our sports teams that our hosts are covering this Fall. In Kansas City it’s our Chiefs and big 12 football, in Louisville it’s U of L and Kentucky football and in Wichita it’s the Chiefs and Cowboys until WSU basketball season kicks in. There is no better way to sell, market and brand your client’s product and services than on local sports radio. For a small additional talent fee, consider connecting with our audience on all levels, radio, digital and social, by signing on for a local personality endorsement as part of your campaign. Once you take that step I promise you will see greater results and increase your client’s sales.
We have a long list of successful local and regional businesses that have taken the steps to make a commitment to include a personality endorsement or segment-guest endorsement. I would be happy to share those details with you. And please consider affording us some credit to apply against your CPP’s and CPM’s when we are offering talent endorsement. You won’t be sorry and you will see the value in that extra credit.
We want to work with you for a very long time and so do our personalities. When you have that connection, you have something special. You are part of an exclusive club.
Sandy Cohen is the Vice President and Director of Sales for Union Broadcasting based in Kansas City. The company owns and operates 810 WHB in Kansas City, ESPN 680 and 93.9 The Ville in Louisville, and 92.3 The Fan in Wichita. To talk with him about this column or future business opportunities, reach him by email at SCohen@UnionBroadcasting.com.
Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different
I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.
With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?
I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?
Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.
It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.
A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?
Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.
New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?
Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.
It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”
The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.
It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.
Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.
Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.
One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?
That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at email@example.com.
ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years
Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.
In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.
It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.
“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”
I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.
The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).
The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.
The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.
I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.
Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.
ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.
The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media
Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.